Teachers’ union, teacher-prep colleges: Don’t make it easier to become a teacher

The state’s largest teachers’ union and some leaders of teacher preparation colleges are resisting the Department of Education’s plan to overhaul the pathway to becoming a teacher.

The State Board of Education was told last month that the department is working on paring back existing certification requirements and creating new non-traditional pathways to becoming a teacher in an effort to resolve problems finding teachers to fill certain vacant positions.

The shortage of qualified teachers has meant that thousands of students each year are being taught by long-term substitutes – most of them in the state’s lowest-performing districts.

The department plans to focus on four teaching areas that districts have struggled for years to fill: bilingual, math, science and special education.

“We believe that it makes sense to build upon the proven quality of current teacher preparation programs rather than take significant risks with untested, third-party training programs,” Michele Rudolf O’Neill of the Connecticut Education Association told the state board Wednesday during their monthly meeting.

“Such third-party training programs often seek to increase the number of new teachers in our neediest districts, which is a worthy goal, but could result in a concentration of under-prepared and ill-equipped teachers serving students in the schools where experience and preparedness matter most.”

Officials at teacher preparation colleges also expressed displeasure.

“Connecticut-based education schools and programs are not unwilling to respond to the state’s needs. In fact, many are working hard in a challenging policy context and toxic public discourse about teaching and teaching education,” Lauren Anderson, chair of the Education Department at Connecticut College, told the state board.

Anne Dichele, the dean of Quinnipiac University’s School of Education, also took issue with creating new pathways to becoming a teacher.

“Our colleges and universities are willing and able to do this important work. What we are not willing to do, and what the Connecticut Board of Education and State Department of Education clearly support, is to promote quick-fix, short-term, unproven solutions such as “non-traditional pathways,” when there is no evidence base for the potential successes being claimed,” she wrote in a recent opinion piece in the CtViewpoints, a sister publication of The Mirror.

State leaders were expecting pushback. Teachers union officials and teacher-college leaders came out strongly last winter to oppose a non-traditional route to certifying teachers for certain high-need areas. Their concerns centered on whether teachers would be prepared well enough if certain requirements were scaled back.

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